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Open Meeting 2015

Local policing was on the agenda as more than 350 people packed into the Ageas bowl in Southampton on Tuesday evening for Hampshire Police Federation's annual open meeting.

Officers quizzed Chairman John Apter, Chief Constable Andy Marsh and Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes on issues ranging from compulsory severance, leave, Hampshire's 'borderless' policing model, neighbourhood policing and restructuring of the force's estate.

CC Marsh said he didn't believe he would have to use compulsory severance in Hampshire, but stopped short of saying he would vote against it at the National Police Chiefs' Council, saying: "I have no intention of using it but practicality means I have to keep the door open."

He also said that with further cuts on the horizon - the Home Office has been asked to prepare for between 25% and 40% ahead of November's Compulsory Spending Review - he would need to "change the expectation of demand on frontline officers".

He added the force "will need to be more ruthless how we deliver services", adding that in some situations, "the public will need to self-serve".

Mr Apter also acknowledged that cuts meant the force needed to have "tough conversations" with the public about what it could do.

He said: "With demand at an all-time high, we must decide what it is we are no longer able to do.

"With officer numbers at an all-time low, demand and pressure on policing increasing we need to have some tough conversations with the public and decide what we will deal with and what we can't. Our current position of trying to be all things to all people is unsustainable."

PCC Simon Hayes emphasised that neighbourhood policing should be at the heart of everything the force did. However, he came in for criticism when he said this job should be done by PCSOs, with many officers saying that they were being used as first response units rather than their original purpose of community policing.

Mr Apter said: "The public have confidence in policing but there has to be a balance. At the moment the balance is skewed, and rank and file officers are insulted by this. There is a real concern police officers will only be used for crisis policing."

One officer pointed out that he and many of his colleagues feel undervalued and lack promotion prospects.

Mr Apter responded: "The national survey on morale painted a depressing picture. Morale is at an all-time low. There is a tangible feeling that people are demoralised and lack opportunities. It is a real issue and bosses ignore this at their peril. But we can do small things to make a big difference."

CC Marsh acknowledged that morale was an issue and pledged to work with the federation to improve it.

He said: "There is no reason why there shouldn't be lateral development. We can't stand in the way of change but we need to recognise the bad aspects [of policing]. I believe if you are motivated and want to get on, you will get on."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Apter added: "I was really pleased to see so many of our colleagues attend what is an important date in the Hampshire Police Federation calendar. "This gives offices the opportunity to ask questions directly from decision makers and also to make sure they are aware of issues affecting them. "I have spoken to a number of officers who attended the open meeting and the feedback was really positive, which is always encouraging. But what they want is to know that something positive can come from the evening. It must not just be hollow words.

"I have met with the Chief Constable since the meeting and we have started to discuss ideas about making life that little bit better for the rank and file.

"Time will tell what improvements, if any, are made but our members can have confidence that their voice has been heard loud and clear."

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